There’s not a whole lot of information out on Shenk’s Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey. This is a NAS Michter’s (sourced) product that pays homage to the original founder of the old Pennsylvania distillery Michter’s carries its legacy from, John Shenk.
The label is quite handsome, straightforward and clean, set neatly on the classic, aesthetically pleasing and vertically dominant, wine style bottle. At first glance, one may assume this is bourbon. But if you analyze the label you won’t find the word “Bourbon” anywhere. Interesting, because Shenk’s used to be a bourbon. Regardless, due to the lack of the word “Bourbon” anywhere on the label, one must assume, refill American Oak has been used here or whiskey(s) with a content of less than 51% corn have been used. Or both.
There is nothing on Michter’s website about Shenk’s, leaving this whiskey, apart from the input of a few retailers and bloggers online, shrouded in mystery…
Shenk’s Homestead Kentucky Sour Mash Whiskey
ABV: 45.6% // 91.2 proof
Mash Bill: Undisclosed, likely both bourbon and refill American Oak
Bottle #1024 of 2075
Producer: Michter’s (sourced, undisclosed)
Color: Dark Chestnut Honey
Nose: Creamy sweet. Toasted marshmallow, vanilla bean skin, dark creamy vanilla, coconut puree with a dollop of burnt, melting white chocolate dropped in for good measure. Terry’s Milk Chocolate Orange Balls with candied orange peel and orange marmalade. Some dried strawberry and raspberry with some lemon peel begin to appear the longer you let the glass sit, which helps to add some balance to the incredible amount of sweet white, confectionary notes. The nose fades with rose petal, crushed walnuts, some light mint and cherry cough lozenges.
Palate: Light-Medium bodied with not too much structure. Big vanilla & Mound’s Milk Chocolate candy bars fight nail and tooth with bitter barrel char but the cherry candy and baking spices ultimately prevail. Spice really lifts off at mid palate with the chocolate, now charred, in sync with candied orange and some light berry notes that are hard to pull apart but which continues to develop as your glass opens up leaving you with a light bitter barrel char on the back of your palate.
Finish: Short-Medium finish, but what you do finish with is a relative reciprocation of what came before with the sweeter notes turning a little darker; dried coconut, mocha, Mexican chocolate, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bars, cinnamon, black pepper barrel char and vanilla. A few morsels of the dried fruit from the nose and palate seemed to of rolled into the mix here as well.
Bourbon and House Rating: 86.5
Chocolate lovers will adore this. It’s like drinking a S’more made with a Hershey’s White Chocolate bar & Honey Maid’s Cinnamon Graham Crackers.
To the untrained palate, and eye, this looks and more importantly tastes very close to Bourbon. Now I don’t know whats in this bottle as apart from Michter’s and maybe a few reps, its really hard to say. In my opinion, this tastes fairly similar to Michters US *1 Unblended American Whiskey (dark blue label). Shenk’s, like the Michter’s Unblended American, both don’t disclose where the whiskey comes from – but they are both on the sweeter side…sweeter than Bourbon that is. Michter’s Unblended uses “bourbon-soaked barrels” to give it its unique profile. Now I don’t think these are the same, nor do they even come from the same source, however my suspicion is that they may be of a similar style, utilizing re-used American oak (“bourbon soaked barrels”). A close runner up in similarity could be Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash…
I’ve enjoyed this bottle of Shenk’s, it’s good. It’s a pour I would share with a novice – someone who’s never had American whiskey before as an easy intro into the American whiskey category – but it’s also a pour i’d give someone who’s had plenty of Bourbon or Rye, but who’d like to try something that isn’t Bourbon, that would like to explore the subtle nuances and differences, distinguishing an unblended American whiskey from a technical Bourbon or Rye.
The interesting complexities of this were really unique, although don’t be surprised if some seasoned Bourbon vets find this too sweet. On the other hand I felt it was really fun to try something just outside of the realm of Bourbon.
If you find a bottle of this at a generally reasonable price, then i’d recommend picking one up – especially if you’re a Michter’s fan boy (or girl). Here in CA i’ve seen Shenk’s in the vicinity of $30-$40, which isn’t bad.
I want to give a very special thanks to Raj Kumar @sffor the bottle! Thanks Raj!